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How To Fit in with Other Culture?

How To Fit in with Other Culture?

The decision about moving to a new country is always quite a challenging decision that provides both positive and negative experience. You cannot be sure that you will become a part of a new culture successfully. So we have collected stories about the experiences of adaptation both of Russian and international students in order to help you to choose the best way of fitting in another culture.

Polina Lemarki

It knew exactly what country I would like to study in. My father is French, so my mother and I decided to move to France. I finished school there and passed the state exams with flying colors. From all universities I chose New Sorbonne for further education since it’s worldwide famous and its diploma is valued.

Before entering the university, I studied at a French school for 2 years and those were really difficult times for me. I faced jealousy from my classmates.

I always excelled at studying and had good marks, which made my classmates feel jealous of me. Being a foreigner is not an easy thing. I tried to do my best but it turned out to be my worst experience because people got the wrong opinion of me. All my classmates thought that I was the teachers’ favorite and they were helping me because I was a foreigner.

Regarding stereotypes, I did have the idea about France and natives because I’ve been acquainted with the culture since my childhood. However, the French did. They believed that Russians drank vodka, kept a Kalashnikov rifle at home and other common stereotypes about my Motherland. 

I’d advise anyone who goes abroad to know what you want and follow your dream. If you experience some adaptation difficulties, inform your school or university admin-istration. Seek support from you friends, family and believe in yourself. Keep in mind that there are other foreign students like you in big cities. They experience the same drawbacks and can understand you.

As for my plans for the future, I’m going to stay in France and find a job there. However, I will never forget Russia, where I had lived for 16 years. I visit my homeland every year now and I will do it in the future to see my relatives and friends.

William Brown

The first time I visited Russia was a long time ago in 2009. I met my foreign friend, who taught me a few Russian words. Since then I have been fascinated by Russia and the Russian language and was willing to learn more about the country. 
That is why I studied Russian Literature and Culture at the University of South Carolina.

Then I have visited Russia many times. During one of the visits, I stayed with a Russian family for about 2 months. To be honest, it was a cultural shock. The most memorable thing was that my host mama was always overfeeding me. I did not object to it so that not to offend her although it seemed unusual for an American. There were other strange things I was expecting to see in Russia. However, most of the common stereotypes failed. For example, my friends used to tell me that Russians are gloomy and unfriendly. On the contrary, I met cheerful and smiley people in the streets. What is more, they tend out to be open-minded and very helpful.

Concerning the differences between the USA and Russia, the greatest one is bureaucracy. Mostly my life here in Russia is the same as in America, except for the one thing: I have to use a great number of documents. The most annoying stuff is countless cards I need to have at the university, such as an ID card, a library card and a student card. It is confusing but I do understand that it is just a different system and I have to fit in it. However, what I cannot get used to is the demonstration of racism in every-day life. Certainly, not to me personally but towards people from former Soviet Republics. The same problem in States is less serious.

I have lived in Russia for a long time while studying and traveling, my Russian language has improved and now I can speak well. Also, my general attitude to Russian life has changed. In the beginning, I thought of Russia as an American but now I have an absolutely different point of view. I start feeling myself Russian. You know, when you know the language, you know the culture.

Considering my future plans – I am open to new challenges of living in Russia. I love Moscow and I’d like to build my career here.

Song Min Sun

My name is Song Mi Sun and I’m from South Korea. Now I am studying at “MIB” at Higher School of Economics.

Firstly, I’ve chosen Russia to study because there is something amazing about this country that I can’t let go of. Also, the language is wonderful. I have started learning Russian during my bachelor years. My second reason is that the Higher School of Economics is located in the capital city, which can give me more opportunities to experience life in Russia. Studying at HSE I found that it is the best university among other Moscow universities. Certainly, MSU and MGIMO are also popular, but I’ve heard that they are rather outdated.

My Russian experience started two years ago when I lived in Novosibirsk for a year and a half. I made a lot of friends there who taught me some Russian and most of the time we spent traveling around the area. I was really impressed by Siberian nature, its forests and rivers - they’re gorgeous. However, in winter time I was astonished by seeing mountains of snow in the city and the most striking thing that some of them were yellow. I had never seen such snow before.

As for the culture shock, it doesn’t come all of a sudden. There must be a certain reason. I had a culture shock when I came back to Korea after living in Siberia. I had difficult times getting used to Korea again. I felt like Siberia had become my home. 

After a while, I moved to Russia again, but now to the capital. It’s been already two months since I arrived in Moscow. It is not hard living here but still I need to adapt to this life. For example, there are always problems with visa, registration, contract and other documentation. Multitasking is another obstacle. I feel confused when I have to work on several things at the same time. I’m scared of missing the deadlines. What is the most difficult to get used to in Russia is a great number of restrictions. For instance, you cannot buy alcohol after certain hours. However, in Korea we don’t have restrictions on buying it and drinking it on the streets.

As for the biggest difference between Russia and Korea – it is the lifestyle. In Korea everything is fast, every service is provided quickly. You do not have to be patient. However, in Russia you do have to. For example, I had my apartment keys made for a month or so.

In general, the pace of life in Moscow is slower than in Seoul, where I am from. But it’s definitely faster than in Novosibirsk. 

Speaking about my future plans, I’d like to get a job in Moscow. However, every time I apply for a vacancy, I’m told that I have to have a Russian citizenship and that they won’t support my visa. It is another frustrating thing but I do have the will to stay and work in Russia.

Anonymous Russian Student

Why have I chosen China? This decision was obvious, as I had been learning Chinese for a long time looking forward to getting education in China. However, at the last moment, everything changed and I gave up the idea of studying.  Instead, I decided to start working in China for about half a year to have a closer look to the place.

My first impressions lived up my expectations. It is a highly developed country with an incredible infrastructure where it is convenient to live. In addition, I was encouraged by a great salary. My dreams were completely fulfilled. I was really impressed by this country!

In the beginning, I had overwhelmed with emotions. Then my excitement started to go down and in the end, it changed into cautiousness and discretion. So, my adaptation took quite a lot time - for about 2-3 month. Sometimes I felt that I was lagging behind.

Considering my social relations, I mostly communicated with local people to improve my language skills. Then I began interacting with foreigners that were visiting China as we had more in common. Communicating with both the natives and visitors, I learnt a lot about the Chinese culture, but also shared my knowledge about Russia. It was a pleasure for me to discover common values.

I suppose that it is essential to exchange cultural background for a successful integration.


We hope that these students’ experiences will help other newcomers to be aware of the possible difficulties they might face and to think of the ways of overcoming them. In addition, their stories, which are full of positive impressions of new culture, will encourage other students not to be afraid of coming to a different country.

Text by

Ekaterina Baranova

Liubov Zaytseva